Our Picks for the PDX Jazz Festival

From Feb 20–Mar 2, jazz luminaries and emerging local and national acts swing, sing, and shred their way across the city.

By Nathan Tucker February 17, 2014

Portland native Esparanza Spalding performs with Spring Quartet.

This year’s edition of the Portland Jazz Festival brings to town such luminaries as guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Ahmad Jamal, showcases up-and-coming local players, and celebrates the 75th anniversary of seminal jazz label Blue Note with performances from some of the imprint’s past recording artists. Check out our picks for the festival, including a few local and under-the radar acts you won't want to miss. Also, make sure to read our profile of the not-to-be-missed Cecile McLorin Salvant.

Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band
Feb 20, Winningstad Theatre
Blade is easily among the most sought-after and versatile drummers in the world, having played with everyone from Wayne Shorter to Joni Mitchell. He’s released three fantastic records with his Fellowship Band, the core lineup of which has remained unchanged since Blade formed the band in 1997 with pianist and composer John Cowherd. The Fellowship performs as part of Blue Note @ 75, in honor of the iconic label that released the band’s first two albums.

Buster Williams’ “Something More” with opening performance by Cecile McLorin Salvant
Feb 22, Newmark Theatre
One of the most prolific sidemen of his generation returns to the festival, this time with a group including Seattle trombone stalwart Julian Priester and PDX by-way-of-New York pianist George Colligan. Buzz-building (and Grammy-nominated) singer McLorin Salvant opens the show with her uniquely expressive takes on jazz standards. Read our profile of McLorin Salvant.

Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio featuring Lew Tabackin
Feb 22, Winningstad Theatre
Widely celebrated for a six-decade career that saw her receive 14-Grammy nominations and establish herself both as an ingenious composer and arranger, and as one of the few successful jazz instrumentalists of her generation, this 84-year old pianist give an increasingly rare public performance, with her husband Lew Tabackin on saxophone.

Spring Quartet: Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Esparanza Spalding, and Leo Genovese
Feb 23, Newmark Theatre
Spring Quartet is basically a survey of the living generations of jazz history, and its four members all play with a finger on the pulse of jazz’s history and its future. Quartets this stacked don’t come around every day, particularly one with a Grammy-winning Portland native (Spalding) in them.

Jarrod Lawson, Chance Hayden, and Reinhardt Melz
Feb 27, Nel Centro
If you haven’t heard Jarrod Lawson sing before, you’re missing out. This first time I heard this local keyboard player and vocalist, back when his band Soulmates had a weekly gig at NW Portland bar Quimby’s, I was completely floored to hear what sounded like Stevie Wonder’s voice coming out of this skinny white guy. For this festival date, Lawson rounds up a trio with guitarist Hayden and drummer (and Soulmates bandmate) Melz.

PJCE Records Showcase
Feb 28, Mission Theater
This uniquely Portland grassroots record label celebrates the variety of new music being made in the Rose City, taking advantage of single session live recording to maintain an impressive release schedule of albums from new and emerging local acts—one a month for most of 2013. This showcase features minimalist bebop from Kin Trio, folk and indie-rock influenced compositions from the Barra Brown Quintet, and a new quartet from pianist Graham Richards and guitarist Dan Duval.

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